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Most grandparents and other close relatives want to help but don’t always know how best to do this.  Don’t wait for parents to come and ask you to help – offer your help and ask them what the most useful thing is that you can do.

The demands of care, lack of sleep and the stress of coping may mean that a parent often cannot do things with a sibling that they would really like to do. It may be that the disabled child’s behaviour or ability to learn makes it impossible to do certain activities with siblings.

We can’t do craft things or painting because my brother’s got autism and he’ll hurt himself on the scissors and eat the beads, so we never make things at home.

General help to the family such as cleaning, baby-sitting, shopping, and providing transport will all benefit siblings. However you can make a big difference to siblings’ lives by supporting them directly.  These are things that parents and siblings at our events would like grandparents and relatives to do.

Stay in contact

Some siblings find that when their brother or sister is diagnosed with a disabling condition that grandparents and other relatives visit less. In the early days of a diagnosis parents may be grieving, they may be angry and irritable or they may no longer be interested in everyday things as their focus is on coming to terms with the change to their family life and how they will cope. Keep in touch, keep visiting, and keep offering support. Siblings need to have some things in their lives stay the same – and your involvement is one of these things.

Understand the condition

Remember that your disabled grandchild or relative is a child first and foremost and that for a sibling this person is just their brother or sister. Siblings see the child not the disability. Learn accurate information about the condition from a reliable source on the internet (ask parents for this) and from the child’s parents. Find out how they explain the condition to siblings and do this too. Read our page on talking about disability. Do not confuse siblings by giving them different information. If you feel that parents are wrong you need to discuss that with them.

One to one time

Spend one to one time – reading stories, baking, chatting about football, doing art and craft activities. Read our page on giving attention.

Teach skills

Always check with parents if it is OK for you to teach something new and make sure to keep them updated on progress with photos and chats – riding a bike, swimming, road safety, cooking…


Having the sibling sleep over and have an evening that is peaceful and relaxing. Many siblings have disrupted sleep or have to cope with a lot of noise and interruptions after school. Have times when you have the disabled child for a sleepover or evening out so that a sibling gets one to one time with a parent a home.

Phone chats

Being available on the phone/Skype for chats about things that are concerning the sibling – this can be really good for siblings aged 10 upwards, whose grandparents or relatives are not nearby.

Hospital support

If the sick or disabled child needs to go into hospital talk to parents about how you can support siblings – taking them to visit in hospital, making a card for their brother or sister, going to watch a sibling’s sport activity, being at the hospital whilst a parent watches a sibling’s sport activity or concert. Read out page on emergencies and hospital stays.

Fairness with gifts

Sick or disabled children often receive more gifts than siblings and this causes jealousy and resentment. Be fair with gifts and always bring a gift for a sibling too if you bring one for the disabled child.

Avoid comparisons

Avoid making comparisons between the children. Never praise siblings in comparison to their disabled brother or sister. This can either make the sibling feel under pressure to be better or can make the sibling feel superior to his or her disabled brother or sister. Don’t compare the disabled child as being better or more ‘special’ than the sibling. Instead, talk with your children about their own individual talents and how they are developing their skills in these areas.

Help whole family be together

If there is something the whole family want to do see if you can help with that. Siblings often want to do things like other families – going out for a meal, going to the cinema. Can you be an extra pair of hands during a family trip?